Facebook and Google stuff the fake news turkey
Thanks to the Facebook system you can know what is and is not fake news. In “How to spot fake news” Facebook offers its millions of slack-jawed readers 10 tips for spotting fake news. One signal points to bad spelling. Apparently, all true news sources have impeccable spelling. The Guardian is doomed, as is anything seen through the prism of Google translate.
Adam Mosseri, head of Facebook’s newsfeed, explains the purge on fake news: “False news is harmful to our community, it makes the world less informed, and it erodes trust.” Doesn’t it make the world more informed, albeit with more questionable news and facts? Mosseri says Facebook’s missive is “an educational tool to help people spot false news”.
No longer a handy tool for bragging about your kids, reaching out to mates and simple, glorious entertainment, Facebook is now a text book from which we can all look and learn. It is devoid of bias. It just present the facts. Really.
And where one follows the fake news trend, another follows the follower. Google has created “Fact Check”. Click on it and Google will show you which stories have been checked and given the Google seal of approval. “We think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree,” says Google. “As we make fact checks more visible in search results, we believe people will have an easier time reviewing and assessing these fact checks, and making their own informed opinions.”
Who checks the checkers? And why should consensus be more trustworthy than contrarianism?
The Californian tech giant announced on Friday that it is rolling out globally a feature in its search and news results that will assess the authenticity of information shown.
Google isn’t doing this fact-checking itself: Instead, it’s relying on respected independent fact-checking organisations like PolitiFact and Snopes to provide the info.
Investors should go long on shoe leather. All those internet hacks pounding the news beat to reach the root of the story will be a joy to watch. These New Cops will find the secret insider who demanded secrecy and hold them to the light. Good luck! (Tip 1: carry cash. Lots of it.)
Shannon Love adds:
Secrecy is so integral to the production of news stories that several recent scandals have occurred because even the editors and publishers do not always know who all of journalist sources are.
This system only works if the consumers trust the media to honestly and accurately transmit the information from the secret sources. Once an iota of doubt about the reporting arises both the story and the organization’s brand is in danger.
The internet era works against old fashion media secrecy. Many more people can ask many more questions about every story. Any potential inaccuracies are brought to light nearly instantly. The old media institutions are then required to justify their stories or risk losing the critical assumption of trust. But they often can’t justify their stories without burning their sources. Bloggers have no economic interest in secrecy. They can tell stories in a perfectly transparent fashion. This gives blogs a tremendous trust advantage.
The era of secrecy and unnamed sources will soon come to an end and with it the economic advantage that old media currently holds over the blogsphere. The days of major media will soon be over. The questions is what will replace it?
Unless fact checking is simply about using one (good) database to combat another (bad) database? Is news just part of the Internet of Things? Should we leave it to the robots and teccies to pump out a smart-phone ready story?
The late late Michael Crichton noted:
Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
There is great journalism out there. It’s rare. It’s often risky. And it’s expensive to produce. The internet came along and pulled Big Media’s curtain aside to see and show what was going on. That newspaper story wasn’t the cut-to-column conclusion to a huge work of investigation, experience and nous. It was the entire job. Unlike proper journalists in ties and brogues, bloggers just rolled out of bed and wrote. Aside from their mates, no-one trusted these pyjama-clad amateurs. But it worked because they used hyperlinks, photos, graphs and videos to show the story. Your no-authority blogger was just laying it out there like a huge plastic turkey on a plate. With social media, news and views are bigger and cheaper than ever to broadcast. Why buy a newspaper for the news when you can get that stuff anywhere? Buy it for the opinion – it’s why columnists get the big bucks. Of just take the free copy with your groceries, watch the best bits of TV news on Facebook and always be sure to look at the ads.
This could help us to understand why Big Media thinks fake news newsworthy. Fake news is nothing new. Why in the post-Brexit Age of Trump is fake news a hot topic? At a guess, I’d say it was in part about discrediting the popular vote – fake news equals fake votes – and because at a time of division, Big Media wants to straddle everything and corral everyone into its customer base. Trust us. Don’t trust them.